Q&A: Jason Blum & Mark Duplass Team On Horror Pic ‘Creep’ As Blumhouse Hit Machine, Indie Model Converge
Blumhouse Productions’ Jason Blum and filmmaker Mark Duplass aren’t the likeliest pair to join forces, but the microbudget horror maven and the indie veteran found common ground when they linked up just over a year ago on a found-footage pic Duplass was hammering out with director pal Patrick Brice. Creep follows the unfolding tale of a videographer (Brice) who answers a Craigslist ad to shoot video of a stranger (Duplass). The two filmed the pic on the fly shaping the story as they went. When Creep began looking like a horror pic, Duplass rang Blum, who then came aboard as producer. The film premiered last week at SXSW.
Blum, who made his fortune and his name on 2009′s game-changer Paranormal Activity, has seen his reputation as a hitmaker climb as audiences keep buying tickets for his insta-franchises including Insidious, Sinister, and The Purge. In a SXSW keynote speech, he lined out the secret to Blumhouse’s success: low budgets of $1M-$3M, directors with something to prove (and, often, bad studio experiences under their belts), no CG, no rebate-state shoots outside of L.A., and scale pay for cast and crew with a cut of the profits if the movie is a hit.
However Creep‘s future shakes out, Duplass is ready to embrace alternative channels of distribution. The actor-writer-director-producer got his start with his and brother Jay Duplass’ indie drama The Puffy Chair, one of Netflix’s early streaming success stories. He’s now produced and distributed nine more features using his own Blum-like formula developed over the past decade working in indie film. Creep is the first of their two features together, with Universal and Blumhouse’s Stephen King adaptation Mercy also on the way. Blum and Duplass explained their simpatico methods during SXSW:
EXCLUSIVE: HBO’s single-camera comedy pilot written, directed and executive produced by Mark Duplass and his brother Jay Duplass is joining the schedule. Some guys have all the luck: Mark originally was not attached to star in the project because the actor …
EXCLUSIVE: The new indie film is called The One I Love, which will be directed by Charlie McDowell from a script by Justin Lader and will star Mad Men‘s …
Berlin: K5 To Start Sales On Jennifer Aniston, Mark Duplass, Ben Kingsley Romantic Comedy ‘Convention’
EXCLUSIVE: Here’s another package that’s come together just ahead of the EFM. K5 International will start sales and CAA and ICM Partners will co-rep North American rights in Berlin on Convention, the second feature from A Many Splintered Thing director Justin Reardon. Jennifer Aniston, Mark Duplass and Ben Kingsley are attached to star in the romantic comedy that shoots this summer. A Charlie Kaufman-esque mind-bender, the premise finds mild-mannered Paul (Duplass) and his feisty sister Abby (Aniston) setting out to change the box storage world with Paul’s invention of the 5-sided box. Kingsley plays a maniacal box magnate who seeks to thwart Paul and Abby’s success. Meanwhile, the invention also risks ripping a giant hole in the fabric of the universe. When Paul realizes the damage he’s causing, he races against time to put the galaxy back in order and save the girl of his dreams.
Reardon is best known as the co-creator and art director for Budweiser’s Wassup! and Howyadoin’ campaigns. He’s just finished production on his feature debut, A Many Splintered Thing, with Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Giovanni Ribisi, Topher Grace and Luke Wilson. Reardon will shoot Convention in the summer from a script by Christopher Painter who’s done TV work on toons like The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Tom And Jerry Tales. Paul Schiff (Rushmore) and Tai Duncan (Red Machine, The Air I Breathe) are producing.
K5 Partners Oliver Simon and Daniel Baur say, “We have an absolute dream cast for this dream comedy concept. It brings to mind films like Being John Malkovich, and Eternal Sunshine, and in Justin Reardon we have a wildly talented and totally visionary director.”
EXCLUSIVE: Mark Duplass continues to branch out as an actor beyond his DIY indie roots with two new projects, even as he and brother Jay keep building their joint TV and film portfolio. The Safety Not Guaranteed star has signed on for Universal and Blumhouse‘s Mercy, a fantasy-horror project based on a short from Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew collection that stars Dylan McDermott, Frances O’Connor, Chandler Riggs, Joel Courtney, Shirley Knight and Chris Browning. Peter Cornwell (A Haunting In Connecticut) is directing, with Jason Blum, McG, and Wonderland Sound and Vision’s Mary Viola producing. Matt Greenberg wrote the script from King’s short story Gramma, about two young boys who visit their grandmother and discover she’s a witch.
HBO has given the green light to Togetherness, a single-camera comedy pilot written, directed and executive produced by brothers Mark and Jay Duplass. It follows two couples living under the same roof who struggle to keep their relationships alive while pursuing their individual dreams. I hear filming is eyed to begin in April, with no plans for Mark, who is also an actor, to star. Duplass Brothers Prods’ Stephanie Langhoff co-executive produces the project, which indie filmmakers the Duplass brothers wrote on spec.
Found-footage horror specialist Blumhouse has acquired Peachfuzz from producers Mark and Jay Duplass and directed by first-timer Patrick Brice. The plot is mostly under wraps but follows a man who answers a Craigslist ad with unexpected results; Mark Duplass co-wrote the script and also stars. The deal closed yesterday at Sundance ahead of the film festival that starts today. The pic was not ready in time for the fest lineup, so the filmmakers offered up a poster and some scenes for buyers. Blumhouse jumped on it, and now it can be finished, with the Universal-based production company set to partner and collaborate with the brothers on the film and its distribution and marketing. The deal was negotiated by Submarine’s Josh Braun, who will serve as an executive producer.
Jay and Mark Duplass have their roots firmly planted in the indie world going back to their 2005 debut The Puffy Chair at the Sundance Film Festival. The brothers have since taken on projects that include stars (and Mark Duplass has become quite the ubiquitous actor himself), but their latest film The Do-Deca-Pentathlon yearns back to their earlier work. Zeitgeist Films’ documentary China Heavyweight is the third by a filmmaking group that has been set in China, though it’s hoping it will be the first to be seen in the giant country. Martin Donovan wrote, directed and stars in his latest project Collaborator, which he tapped into Canadian funding to make, while Strand Releasing found Crazy Eyes ahead of its SXSW Film Festival debut, quickly nabbing the title they hope will appeal to the hipster crowd.
Specialty releases can clean up at the box office if they’re seen as serious awards contenders, but the majority of limited rollouts never make it to the awards big leagues in a given year. Two of this week’s new specialty openers are admittedly not in play for any golden statuettes according to their insiders (unless this is some sort of reverse-psychology campaign?). First off, Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener starrer Peace, Love & Misunderstanding will open in 25 cities this weekend. Its high-profile stars along with some now high-profile newcomers might be just the thing for moviegoers looking for a summer escape. China Lion’s Double Trouble will have a smaller indie platform release, hoping to cash in on the first film of Hong Kong star Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee. Also hitting screens is FilmDistrict’s Safety Not Guaranteed, which concerns a magazine crew that sets out in search of the person who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time-travel. Then there’s Daryl Wein’s Lola Versus with star Greta Gerwig courtesy of Fox Searchlight and doc Paul Williams Still Alive is taking its story about the Oscar and Grammy award-winning star via a more DIY approach.
St. Patrick’s Day weekend proved lucky for the Dardenne brothers’ U.S. debut of The Kid With A Bike. IFC Films opened the Belgian filmmakers’ picture in 3 locations with a robust $16,300 per screen. SXSW ’11 awards-winner Natural Selection opened at the Angelika in NYC with a decent $9,201. The Duplass Bros’ Jeff Who Lives At Home bowed in 254 theaters, with a modest $3,307 average.
Co-director Mark Duplass told Deadline that their distributor Paramount Vantage spent very little on the release’s P&A debut and they hoped the film’s cast would attract audiences despite the modest marketing dollars. They remain hopeful for the weeks ahead. “We found the gamble to be good and bad,” said Duplass. “Turns out awareness of the film was low going into the weekend, but that the people who did discover the film are spreading incredibly strong word-of-mouth as evidenced by the uptick throughout the weekend. We plan to expand next weekend with a more aggressive P&A spend as well.”
The main box office story was Sony’s 21 Jump Street‘s $35 million bow, but Lionsgate’s Spanish-language Will Farrell vehicle Casa De Mi Padre had an impressive rollout for what otherwise amounted to a specialty release.
Among week 2 specialty holdovers, Roadside Attractions added 266 theaters for Friends With Kids, averaging a decent $2,344, a 26% decline from its first weekend. Lasse Hallstrom’s Salmon Fishing In The Yemen was perhaps the weekend’s most solid holdover, adding 44 screens, averaging a solid $7,339, a 45% drop from the film’s bow in 18 locations.
1. The Kid With A Bike (IFC Films) New [3 Theaters] Weekend $48K, Per Screen Average $16,300
2. Jeff Who Lives At Home (Paramount Vantage) NEW [254 Theaters] Weekend $840K, Per Screen Average $3,307
3. Natural Selection (The Cinema Guild) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $9,201
4. Detachment (Tribeca Film) NEW [2 Theaters] Weekend $11,050, Per Screen Average $5,525
5. Seeking Justice (Anchor Bay) NEW [231 Theaters] Weekend $260K, Per Screen Average $1,126